The story of designing a book

True Grit

Silk Pearce created the design concept and artwork for the second edition of The Grit; a historic compendium of life in Lowestoft’s Beach Village. The project was devised by the Poetry People and led by writer and poet, Dean Parkin.

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First published in 1997 and co-written by Dean Parkin and Jack Rose, The Grit became a local bestseller and is now held as a significant historical portrayal of the hardships experienced in the small rural fishing community.

Rob Steer, Creative Director at Silk Pearce, took the lead on the project, he explains, “The overall feel is dark and gritty to give an impression of how tough life was for the fishing village. While we also wanted to create an authentic record of The Grit as a living place and a thriving community.”

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Authenticity has been added to the design by incorporating elements from the fishing boats, “We’ve borrowed the strong use of black and gold from the sign-written namesplates and used this colour palette throughout the book, with the gold reflecting that although life was tough, the community was still vibrant,” he adds.

The overall effect is also evident within the illustrations that are contributed by Lowestoft illustrator, Paula White. Paula was inspired by the first edition of the book and would often visit the site at dawn and dusk to sketch and absorb the atmosphere and talk to the locals. With art direction by Silk Pearce, 14 of Paula’s illustrations appear within the book, which can be found on the cover and chapter sections.

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Paula explains the reason behind the style, “I wanted to keep the artwork honest and true, showing intimate detail but also creating atmosphere with loose brushwork and texture where needed. The limited palette adds to the nostalgia and evokes a real sense of place, bringing the sights, sounds and smells of the Beach Village back to life.”

The idea was to capture real life, without modern day perfection and the illustrations have been deliberately taken from Paula’s sketchbook without any adornment. The same approach has been taken with the photographs. “The modern inclination is to retouch scratches or creases,” says Rob, “but we’ve treated the old photographs as precious artefacts, preserving their ‘wrinkles’ and dog-eared corners.

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“There’s was certainly nothing glossy about life on The Grit, so we chose to print the book on an uncoated paper, which we felt better reflected the real lives of the people living there," Rob adds.

In keeping with the true spirit of the project, the book launch took place in Christ Church Hall, Lowestoft, one of the only original buildings left from the former fishing village. It appears that The Grit is a long way from becoming just a memory. As writer Dean Parkin says, "It’s half a century since the fishing village was demolished, but out of sight has never meant out of mind… The Grit is definitely back on the map.”

Printed by local company Leiston Press, the new edition, consists of 256 pages, 65,00 words and 250 photos. Copies of The Grit are available from Corner Street Publications and cost £22.50 for a paperback, and £35.00 for a limited-edition hardback.